Film Review: The Curse of La Llorona (dir by Michael Chaves)


The Curse of La Llorona is a boring film about a scary legend.

The legend of La Llorona is a well-known one in Mexico and the southwestern half of the United States.  It’s a story that I was told by both my mom and my aunts and, as a result, I never went off with a stranger while I was growing up.  Of course, I also had some pretty intense nightmares but that’s kind of the point.  If someone tells you the story of La Llorona and you don’t end up having a nightmare about being drowned by a weeping woman, they didn’t tell the story correctly.

La Llorona was originally named Maria.  She lived, in a rural village, with her family and she was famous for both her beauty and her virtue.  When a wealthy nobleman saw her and immediately proposed to her, Maria accepted.  However, the nobleman’s father was upset that his son was marrying into a poor family and he refused to accept Maria as his daughter-in-law.  Maria and her husband ended up having two sons and living in a house by the river.  Maria’s husband doted on their sons but he ignored her and eventually, Maria learned that he was having an affair.

In a fit of blind rage, Maria drowned her children in the river.  After realizing what she had done, Maria died of grief.  However, when she arrived at the gates of Heaven, she was asked why her children were not with her.  When Maria explained that she had lost them, she was told that she would not be allowed to enter Heaven until she found them.  Now, known as La Llorona (or “the weeping woman”), she wanders the Earth, crying and looking for her children.

Where does one find La Llorona?  It depends on who is telling the story.  Some stories say that you’ll only see her near a body of water.  My mom used to tell me that La Llorona could be anywhere, including under my bed or in the bedroom closet.  Regardless of where you might find her, La Llorona is always wearing her wedding dress and she’s always sobbing.  Approach her and she’ll grab you and either kidnap you or drown you, all the while begging for forgiveness.  Many have seen La Llorona but few have survived to tell the story.

“And that is why we do not talk to strangers,” my mother would say while I looked out the bedroom window, searching for the sight of La Llorona walking through the Texas night….

Unfortunately, The Curse of La Llorona never comes close to being as scary as the stories that I used to hear when I was growing up.  Instead, the film is a standard Conjuring-Insidious-Paranormal Activity type of film, with La Llorona continually popping up out of the shadows to frighten a social worker and widow named Anna Tate-Garcia (Linda Cardellini), and her two children.  The film has a few jump scenes but it never creates enough atmosphere to be consistently scary and, even worse, it reduces La Llorona to just being a typically malevolent spirit in a wedding dress.  In the end, the film itself doesn’t seem to really understand what La Llorona wants nor does it have a clear idea of what she can or cannot do.  As such, the whole movie has a slapdash feel to it that makes it difficult to really maintain any suspense.

Technically, The Curse of La Llorona is a part of the Conjuring Universe.  Not only does the film take place in the 70s (which was apparently the decade when all the ghosts and spirits went crazy) but there’s also very brief flashback featuring that ugly Annabelle doll.  However, neither Patrick Wilson nor Vera Farmiga puts in an appearance, which is a shame because The Conjuring films really only work because of their chemistry.  Instead, Raymond Cruz shows up as an exorcist named Rafael.  Cruz gives a likable performance but, again, one gets the feeling that the film wasn’t sure what exactly it wanted to do with him.

Anyway, The Curse of La Llorona is a disappointment.  Fortunately, there’s a lot of good and genuinely frightening Mexican horror films about La Llorona.  I recommend checking out 2006’s Kilometer 31.

The Weeping Woman (1937, Pablo Picasso)

Horror Trailer: The Curse of La Llorona


The Curse of La Llorona

Every culture has it’s own folktales and scary stories to tell around the campfire in the dark. Coming from the Philippines I know of many scary folk stories and monsters that’s unique to my culture. As the world has become more modern these dark tales have morphed into urban legends new and old.

What all these dark folk tales and urban legends have in common is the theme of death and suffering. One such urban legend, or a dark folk story among the Latino community, is the tale of “La Llorona” or the Weeping Woman.

This April 2019, James Wan of The Conjuring fame will bring to the bigscreen an adaptation of the tale of the “La Llorona.” This should be of much interest not just to me but to fellow co-founder of the site, Lisa Marie, who has such a huge interest in the subject of the Weeping Woman.

The Curse of La Llorona arrives with its first official poster as seen above and it’s first trailer below.

Adventures in Cleaning Out The DVR: Cleveland Abduction (dir by Alex Kalymnios)


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After I finished up Ominous, it was time to deal with Cleveland Abduction.  Why was it something that I had to “deal with?”  Well, I originally watched Cleveland Abduction when it was broadcast on Lifetime way back in May.  I meant to review it when I originally watched it but, every time I sat down to write about this movie, I just couldn’t.  Just thinking about the movie and the true story that inspired it was too overwhelming and upsetting.  Cleveland Abduction is one of the most disturbing and depressing (and yet also inspiring) movies that I’ve ever seen.  It’s certainly the most emotionally intense film to ever be made for Lifetime.

A friend of mine actually told me that she could only watch 15 minutes of Cleveland Abduction and then had to stop because she didn’t want the film’s ugliness to get inside her head.  And I don’t blame her.  Cleveland Abduction is an ugly film about three young women who were kidnapped, held prisoner, and repeatedly raped by an evil man.  The film does not flinch from showing the details of their ordeal and it is all the more disturbing for being based on a true story.

I don’t know if I believe in demons or possession or anything like that but I do know that Ariel Castro was an evil man.  Castro, a school bus driver and wannabe musician, abducted Michelle Knight, Gina DeJesus, and Amanda Berry off the streets of Cleveland.  For 11 years, he held them prisoner in his filthy house.  (Disturbingly, some of Castro’s neighbors actually saw the girls in the house but refused to get involved.)  Rather than face a jury and spend the rest of his life as imprisoned as the three women he held captive in his house, Castro committed suicide in his jail cell.

The film centers on Castro’s first known victim, single mother Michelle Knight (a poignant performance from Taryn Manning, who perfectly captures Michelle’s quiet strength).  Castro (played, in properly brutal fashion, by Raymond Cruz) runs into Michelle while she’s walking to court to try to win custody of her son.  Castro offers her a ride and Michelle agrees.  Castro takes her back to his house and her 11-year nightmare begins.

And it’s not easy to watch, nor should it be.  The film doesn’t shy away from showing what Michelle and, eventually, the other two victims went through.  Spending her days either handcuffed or in a locked bedroom, Michelle’s only escape comes from thinking about her son.  When the other two girls are abducted, Michelle comforts them and help them to remain strong.  Meanwhile, on the outside, the police assume that Michelle has just run away from her old life and they refuse to even look for her.

It’s ugly and disturbing and difficult and infuriating to watch.  As I watched, I continually asked myself if I would be able to survive if I ever found myself in the same situation.  I always like to assume that, since I always have pepper spray and I’m a fairly god runner, nobody would ever be able to abduct me but, as I sit here couch-bound with a sprained foot, I know that it’s never that simple.  I also like to assume that I could be as strong as Michelle Knight.  Hopefully, I’ll never have to find out.

But here’s the thing — as disturbing and nightmarish as this film has to be — it’s ultimately a very inspiring film.  For all the ugliness, Cleveland Abduction is ultimately a film about survival and tribute to the strength, courage, and sisterhood of Michelle Knight, Gina DeJesus, and Amanda Berry.  Based on Michelle’s book and featuring a compelling lead performance from Taryn Manning, Cleveland Abduction is not an easy film to watch but it is one that should be watched.

Guilty Pleasure No. 10: The Substitute (dir. by Robert Mandel)


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The most recent entry in the Guilty Pleasure series had Lisa Marie waxing poetically about the idealistic teacher in the “jungle” film The Principal. I counter and follow this up with a similar-themed film called The Substitute that came and went very quickly in the theaters (I’m not even sure if it did or just went straight to video) in 1996.

The Substitute stars veteran actor Tom Berenger (you may remember him in such films as Platoon, Major League and Sniper) as a Vietnam vet mercenary who ends up substituting as the substitute teacher for his girlfriend’s high school class as she recovers from an attack that has left her unable to teach. The girlfriend was played by one Diane Venora who in the very same year was in another little film called Heat by Michael Mann. These two polar opposite films in terms of their “quality” just shows you that when it comes to acting, unless one was a recognizable name then any role is a good role it seems.

Getting back to the film, Berenger’s character is the titular substitute in one of Miami’s worst inner-city high schools where, as the film’s tagline proudly proclaims, the most dangerous things about it was the students. That is until Berenger’s character shows up to find out who attacked his girlfriend and bring down the wrath of God himself (or at least Berenger’s character and members of his old mercenary team).

The film isn’t what one would call very subtle. We clearly see either two types of teachers in this school. There’s Berenger and his girlfriend who care for the young teens (the former woth tough love and the latter going about it in a more liberal sense) and then there are those who have given up on the school and just cashing in on a paycheck. This goes to the extreme with the school’s principal (played by Ernie Hudson) who begins to suspect that the new substitute might be more than he appears.

It’s the passive-aggressive interaction between the two roles played by Berenger and Hudson that made for some of the more hilarious sequences in the film.

Oh, another thing the film also involves a dangerous high school gang that uses the school as if it’s their own little fiefdom and the local drug kingpin using it as a way station to move heroin into the Miami inner-city school system. Oh, did I happen to mention that Marc Anthony plays the leader of the high school gang, because he sure does.

The Substitute almost plays out like how a teacher fed up with the inattentiveness of his students and the stress of doing a thankless job imagines the perfect scenario to “clean-up” the high school. It’s not through coddling and talking things out with the students. It’s about using military tactics to take out the dangers of gangs and drug dealers and tough love on those who are still worth saving.

Some have called the film as blatantly racist while others have pointed out how it is just an extreme version of the longstanding storyline of the educated and civilized white man saving the “natives” from themselves. What this film has over other school films of similar themes is how it doesn’t try to sugarcoat and hide behind ideals when it comes to it’s story. Plus, it’s such a guilty pleasure to see a typical 80’s action flick dressed up to be a late 90’s film. They really don’t make films like this anymore.